Unpleasant Surprises? Mobile ERP in Practice

Working on a digital tabletengomo’s Jens Stier about pitfalls and solutions for better enterprise mobility

One of the main ERP trends stated by organizations is the mobile access to data and transactions from their ERP system – but it is exactly this topic that troubles them the most in realizing usable and satisfactory solutions in practice. This is one of the outcomes of the recent study published by Trovarit AG, “ERP in Practice – User Satisfaction, Usage and Perspectives 2014/2015.” In Europe’s largest assessment of its kind, Trovarit surveyed almost 2,400 organizations of different sizes and across industries regarding their level of satisfaction with their ERP system.

The aspect “mobile accessibility” turned out as unpleasant surprise in the study, and was rated the most unsatisfactory aspect of ERP solutions, drastically behind “international usage” and “interfaces”. At the same time, organizations have clearly recognized the benefit and impact of mobile ERP, considering the mobile accessibility of enterprise data a very relevant trend for the future. According Trovarit, mobile ERP isn’t all that well developed as suppliers would like their users to believe it. It is also apparent that in many cases, internet-based accessibility of ERP systems via employees’ notebooks is already interpreted as enterprise mobility solution – a circumstance that did not fulfill the users’ requirements, as the users are already used to the usability of real apps from using mobile devices in their private lives, as the study puts it.

But what are the specific aspects that are disappointing mobile ERP users today, and, even more important, how can companies deal with them? Jens Stier, CEO of engomo, an independent platform for mobile ERP solutions, explains the challenges – usability, suitability for processes, and flexibility:

Jens Stier, CEO at engomo

“First of all, it is critical to note that a browser-based ERP application is by no means a mobile ERP app. Even If there is some version that is optimized for being viewed on mobile devices and that takes the limited screen space available into account: a browser-based application lacks the UI controls of a native app – and that’s exactly what makes the difference between a working app and an app that is hard to use.” Jens Stier states the example of selecting an entry from a long dropdown list: in a native app, this can be done using specific mobile UI elements. On the other hand, such a list becomes easily inusable in a browser-based app.

Second, Jens Stier states the selection of transactions and processes that are to be mobilized, as crucial aspect to user satisfaction: “If I just go ahead and copy and paste a complete functional area of my ERP into a mobile application, I am completely ignoring the needs of mobile app users”, is how Jens Stier puts it. According to him, it is essential to select processes and transactions for mobile apps individually and to offer exactly the right and relevant transactions to the users. Ideally, different transactions and processes are even bundled in different mobile apps: “Users in warehouse operations need an app to support them with their specific tasks, for instance entry of incoming goods, inventory transactions and information about products in stock. Users in the field sales organization of the same company, on the other hand, have different requirements, which is they should get their own app. This way, optimized usability and user-friendliness can be ensured”, as Jens Stier explains further.

A third essential aspect is the connection of mobile ERP apps with the back-end: the app user should be enabled to complete a business transaction, no matter which system is needed for the transaction in the back-end, and this should be possible in a smooth way, without switching between apps in the worst case to retrieve data from a second system. “Flexibility is the key word when we talk about connecting mobile ERP apps with the back-end”, Jens Stier comments this aspect. Just as app users are used to find all their appointments in one single calendar app – business, private, and maybe even those of their spouse – mobile apps should support the accessibility of different data sources from one single app interface.

And how can companies tackle the topic of mobile ERP in practice, today? There are solutions available for companies that want to leverage the productivity gains from mobile ERP today. On the one hand, they can of course turn to paid development of individual apps by IT service providers are ERP providers. On the other hand, however, they can use independent mobile middleware systems that allow for the flexible configuration of enterprise apps and that connect to various existing back-end systems via interfaces to retrieve and store data. For Jens Stier, who developed such a kind of system with engomo, the advantages are evident: “Organizations get native apps for mobile ERP, with optimized mobile usability and exactly for those processes that they want to cover on the mobile device. At the same time, they remain independent from their system providers and can easily link different back-end systems with one app. A lean add-on for companies that puts them in a position to benefit from the gains with mobile business, today.”

The management summary of the quoted Trovarit Study is available in German language at http://www.trovarit.com/erp-praxis/erp-praxis.html.

To learn more about engomo and its enterprise mobility solution, visit www.engomo.com.


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